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July 30, 2007

Self-Diagnosis for the Tech-Savvy

Peak8 pitches a manpower-saving, expert level of tech support.

Ever called a technical support line after attempting several fixes yourself, only to find out that the tech-support monkey on the other end is committed to forcing you to try the same fixes all over again? There’s perhaps no greater frustration for the semi-educated computer user than to murmur "I tried that" several dozen times as the technician runs through a logic-tree script. For cable operators offering broadband access, walking relatively knowledgeable customers through their computer troubles can limit time spent with other customers, some of whom do indeed fail to understand the importance of plugging into an outlet when operating a PC. Wouldn’t it be great if you could help some customers help themselves?

That’s primarily the goal of Peak8 Solutions, a software and services firm that’s trying to make broadband tech support less painful. Peak8’s pitch to cable operators and telcos is simple: Empower customers and save more than a buck per sub per month doing it. "Consumers want to fix it themselves," says Peak8 CEO/founder Ronald Renjilian. And Peak8 cites research suggesting that 20-50% of tech support calls to service providers involve problems that aren’t even related to broadband access. An example would be a computer infected with spyware or a hijacked browser that’s blocking or redirecting Internet access.

In May, the company launched the cleverly named demo site to show providers how they could enable customers to find fixes to tech problems related to the digital lifestyle, including cable modem or DSL issues. Service providers would brand their own Supportal site and then use call-center agent tools and Peak8’s knowledge libraries to help customers resolve many common problems (MSOs can also create their own content). Operators can even offer premium content such as tech training materials as an upsell to subscribers. "In this model, providers can then choose to sell a Premium Support Package to their subscriber base, or bundle an expanded support service into a high-speed Internet solution stack as part of the overall value equation," says Renjilian. Operators loath to add another layer of complexity to their support infrastructure can also outsource the management of all this stuff to Peak8, which then pays commissions back based on revenue generated. (Peak8 says it is talking to all the major MSOs about the Supportal product.)

To be sure, companies like Peak8 aren’t a panacea. Many subscribers aren’t going to take kindly to someone telling them to go help themselves. But it seems logical that weeding out the more savvy from the truly confused masses tying up those support lines is a good start. After all, with enough TLC, those confused customers could someday graduate to self-help tools themselves, clearing out even more space for the newbies. Ah, the cycle of life.

Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX Daily. He can be reached at

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